You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

Wow, I can’t believe that I am writing my final blog post for ECI 831.  One thing we can count on is time traveling quickly.  As I am contemplating what I have learned in my journey this term, it occurred to me that I have moved from not knowing how to set up a blog site to being determined that, although this will be the last post for this course, it will not be the last post on my site.

Learning how to blog this term was both satisfying and frustrating.  I definitely made a lot of progress.  It was a huge job for me to set up my blog site and figure out how to get started.  I didn’t realize at first that I had to approve comments as I stated in my blog post, “Am I starting to Understand?”  I found myself moving from being nervous about it to looking forward to it. I gradually learned how to insert pictures and video.  It was a great way to get out my thoughts on different  issues.  My school  principal gets to hear a lot of my ranting and raving out tech issues, so she was also be grateful that I had the blog site to express some of my thoughts.

One of the most satisfying things that I did this term was get a classroom of children in my school to start blogging as I talked about in my blog post about technology and language and my post about having fun with blogging. They were  excited to learn what it was and how to do it.  They were so excited about their first blog posts that many of them published them before we had a chance to check them over  and they were full of mistakes despite the number of times we told them not to.  It was interesting to see their progress and it was truly an experience where the students  exceeded the teacher.  Once I gave them the basics, many of them took off and were not afraid to experiment and try new things.  Check out our blogging spot!

In my position right now I do not have my own classroom of students and I have not had one for a couple of years.  I have been saying to my principal this year, “you need to get me back in the classroom.”  These grades 4/5 students showed me first hand the importance of connecting with their world.

The next thing I tackled was creating a wiki site that the teachers in my school could use so that they would have useful resources right at their finger tips.  I think that one of the biggest challenges teachers face involves time and although many teachers have the desire to use technology in their classrooms, they feel they do not have the time or expertise to do it.  This thought is what motivated the Smart’s Social Networking wiki.

I found this new medium harder than the blog to dive in and conquer.  I kept wanting to just scrap my original idea and head back to a blog site.  When we shared our ideas mid-class and I expressed my frustrations, Alec said it would be okay to do that.  I did not want the new technology to defeat me though!  I wanted to forge ahead and not retreat back to the familiar.  My wiki is definitely a work in progress, but I think that it is starting to come together to, at least, fulfill the purpose that was intended.

The classes this term were very inspiring to me. I was always pumped up at the end of class.  Either I was ready to try a new idea ,such as when we listened to Alan Levine as he spoke about digital storytelling and Sylvia Martinez when she spoke about educational gaming, or express my feelings in a blog post after listening to Jon Mott talk about open education.  I have been involved in on-line learning and teaching for a number of years, so his ideas really inspired me and made me realize that there were many more things that I could have added to my on-line courses.   There were other nights when I left confused, but I excited to go and find out what the heck we were talking about!  I am not kidding, but I love to learn new things such as the whole idea of remixing  with Brian Lamb and Scott Leslie. Ever since I heard Dean Share (ski) speak in Saskatoon I have been a groupie of his, following his ideas on open access to technology and digital teaching and learning.   I always looked forward to class and enjoyed the format very much.

I was not a huge participator in the back channel, but I did make peace with it about half way through the course.  I was distracted by it at first because it was not something that I was used to as I blogged about in my post, “Making Friends with the back channel.” About half way through the course I realized that I was using the back channel more than I thought and I was able to listen to the lecture and at least keep up with what was going on.  I thought it was so interesting to have guest speakers and fellow participants from all over the world.

When I first started this course it took me a long time to get my picture posted on the class wiki.  Thank goodness you can make a mistake and not wreck everything that is on there!  I also made an introductory video using xtranormal.  I uploaded it to you tube.  I never got it to the class wiki because of time constraints, but I can say that I have a video posted on you tube.  I used it as an example for a group of grades 6,7 and 8 students  when I was trying to inspire them to branch out and try something new for a project we were working on.  Let me tell you, they were impressed that their old vice-principal had a video posted on you tube!

One of the other projects that I attempted was doing a video using a site called VoiceThread. I tried to upload it to this post, but it was taking too long, so I decided that a link would have to do.  I was very proud of my finished product and I think it is another indication of the progress that I have been able to make this term.

The off shoots and benefits of this course have far exceeded my expectations.

  • I became familiar with faces and places and names that I never would have otherwise.  Now when I am looking around on the web I recognize names and can make connections
  • I have taken on an unexpected role on my staff as a technology mentor by passing on new ideas and supporting teachers with projects and lessons
  • I now feel I understand many tech topics much better including some that I had never even heard of before
  • I try and pass on my new found enthusiasm to others by presenting videos and information to my staff at  staff meetings
  • I saw the possibility to bring more technology into my school and applied for a grant to start a new project
  • I have carried on numerous conversations with division technology tech people to try and encourage  progress toward making 21st century learning and teaching easier for teachers
  • I was amazed at the amount of support that was available to me and the amount of help I received from everyone associated with this course
  • I learned so many things from the speakers and classmates from around the world

I would be amiss to not admit that I still have some frustrations associated with technology

  • Time is the biggest factor for me and the teachers in my school and, I think, teachers everywhere

I hope that I will continue to make progress and can gradually work towards less frustrations and even more beneficial off-shoots.

I will miss you on the back channel!

Am I Learning New Technology or New Language?

According to our speaker last night, Stephen Downes,… what we are really needing are not 21st century skills necessarily, but 21st century languages.  Hmmm…that was some more food for thought for this already well fed brain.  Stephen went on to give a presentation that was full of somewhat complicated ideas and information.  One thought that stood out for me was “we learn by participating and creating artifacts in various languages.”  I am not sure if this is the true meaning that Stephen wanted to get across to me, but the way I interpreted it, that couldn’t be more true for me or for ECI831. I have been forced way out of my comfort zone in this course and I have made myself try new things even when I was uncomfortable doing it.  I can definitely say that I have learned by participating and I have managed to create a few artifacts.

When I watch my grades 4/5 students blogging each week, I can’t believe how comfortable they are and how excited they are to try something new.  I find myself working hard to stay caught up with them.  Most of them do not need to be taught new skills because they are so comfortable with the “language” that they are willing to explore and discover on their own.  I am trying to teach them to be willing to dialogue with people and create their posts and comments for the purpose of opening up a discussion with someone else with similar interests or ideas.

When reflecting on Stephen Downe’s lecture and trying to make some connection to it, I spent some time reading some of his other blog posts and articles.  I came across an article titled, “Seven Habits of Highly Connected People.”  It is worth checking out.  There were some excellent ideas to pass along to my grade 4/5’s.

“The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.”

What excellent advice for anyone, not just on-line.  We all need to be open to other perspectives and ideas and it never hurts to listen or live and learn as I call it.  Maybe it isn’t so bad afterall that I still get a bit frustrated with the back channel.  I may be called a lurker, but perhaps I am just listening and getting the lay of the land.

“What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.”


Another piece of excellent advice to  pass on.  It never hurts to add a little of your own voice and let people get an idea of who you are.  I am trying to teach my grade 4 and 5 students to put a little of themselves into their posts and comments and to try to use language that is engaging and creates a voice.

So as I continue to guide my students in the creation of their artifacts I hope that we all can learn the language of their future together.

Catch you on the back channel.